Let’s be clear: My preference will always be for a real garden. I love getting my hands dirty, watching the plants grow, yelling at the crows as they eat all of my tomatoes again. There really is something therapeutic about being in the garden. But I also recognize how lucky I am to have this. Some of us don’t have the luxury of space for a garden. Some of us may not have the money or the climate for it. This doesn’t stop me from wanting to do something. It only changes how I do it. It’s time to Make/Play/Watch/Read in the garden!
Make: A Paper Garden With Origami Flowers
During the 2019/2020 Australian Bushfires, I couldn’t go outside to enjoy the garden. I couldn’t even go outside to save our garden. Instead, I was stuck inside thinking of creative ways to make my own little spot of serenity. That’s when origami came to my rescue.
Origami is the Japanese art of paper-folding. It is part artful expression, part zen meditation. I have been casually studying origami since I was a young child. My hand-eye coordination is horribly woeful and yet with origami, I can still manage a messy crane or two. I love the clean neat folds and the gentle play with the paper as you coax a round curve out of a reverse fold.
One of my new favorites is this gorgeous origami flower. The instructions come from p.peeraatanachart and are fairly easy to understand. Follow the link here.
You don’t need to buy special paper for origami. Anything will do (and save the fancy traditional stuff for a special occasion). I once worked with a woman in a Federal Court Registry who would fold cranes out of candy wrappers during quiet periods. My kids have produced penguins from the ticket receipts you hold while waiting in queues. You can make your own origami garden from anything you have at hand. Let us know what you come up with in the comments.
A new game has hit the tabletop shelves and brings a whole lot of good-gardening vibes with it. Ohanami is a card-drafting game from Pandasaurus, inspired by the Japanese tradition of “flower viewings,” where one would go to the gardens or parks and admire the flowering displays of nature (particularly the cherry blossoms). This tradition is another example of simple beauty and the elegance of nature. The game, Ohanami, has captured these elements and brought them out in game-form. You can check out my more detailed review of the game over here.
A quick summation: Ohanami is aimed at 2-to-4 players, with a gameplay duration of around 20-minutes across three rounds. The aim is for players to grow up to three gardens with a combination of numbered cards featuring water, greenery, rocks, and flowers. In each round, the scores are slightly different. The only rule is your garden can only grow in numerical order, with cards added at the top or bottom (never from the side). It looks like a simple and elegant game, however, it holds plenty of potential for strategy and forward-thinking.
There are a few elements to this game that nurture our inspiration for gardening. The most obvious is the gorgeous yet minimal artwork. Each of the elements slowly progresses as the numbers grow. For example, card “31” features a branch of cherry blossom at the beginning of its growth, while card “97” shows an entire tree in full bloom. It is a lovely depiction of the gradual changes you can see in any garden, given time and effort.
I also love how you need diversity in the garden to gain the best scores. It would be easy to focus on the highest-scoring cards, but they only count in the final of three rounds. Instead, players are encouraged to consider all elements over the whole game—a common feature with any gardener.
Ohanami is a sweet compact game and easy enough to carry out to the garden for a quick game. It has quickly become a firm favorite in our family, especially with our littlest gardener (7 years old).
Watch: The Martian
Gardening is not always bliss and serenity. More often than not, gardening is hard work. However, it is hard work with a purpose. My young daughter, EG Zaltu, befriended a local lady thanks to their mutual love for gardens. We later found out she recently retired from her work as a garden curator in the Sydney Botanic Gardens. She was thrilled to see young children interested in the garden but was adamant we should not hide young Zaltu from the hard work.
“Children need to know there is work involved. Plants don’t just appear out of nowhere. We don’t grow them. We have to help them to grow. Sometimes it works out, sometimes it doesn’t. But we still need to work at it.”
The Martian, starring Matt Damon as the main character Mark Watney, is a great example of this. It’s not exactly age-appropriate for 7-year-old Zaltu, but I look forward to sharing it with her in the future (read the 2015 GeekDad review here). Zaltu is thinking about being a “space farmer.” She loves gardening (particularly farming) and is often talking about how plants grow in space, what plants we think are important for space colonies, what new skills we need to learn, what kinds of plants could grow on other planets.
In the movie, The Martian, Watney was initially on the mission to investigate these same questions. However, when a disaster occurs, Watney is forced to reassess how we farm in the most uninviting situations. It is hard work, but it has a purpose. (Survival is always a good purpose.) Throughout the movie, Watney is constantly showing he is first-and-foremost a gardener. A scientist. A farmer. It’s simply the location that is a little different.
If ever you are feeling despondent about your garden’s lack of performance (or even your lack of garden), load up The Martian and know that Matt Damon understands how you feel. The movie is based on the book written by Andy Weir but I have another suggestion for “Read”…
Read: The Curious Garden
One of the kids told me they were reading The Curious Garden at school. I had never heard of the book so, of course, I had to read it myself. I am so glad I did.
The Curious Garden, written by Peter Brown, is not a new book but it is evergreen in its message. We already know how important gardening is. We know how beneficial it can be for our physical and mental health. So how do we take some responsibility and act on it? We start small and encourage others to join in the growth. The main character of the book, Liam, discovers a garden and encourages it to grow, spreading around the city. Eventually, people begin to notice and come to help with the garden. It starts with a seed of curiosity and grows into a garden of responsibility and community. The story alone is beautiful, but Brown has also illustrated the book with pictures filled with complexity and vibrancy and tiny little nuances that add to the storytelling. It is stunning!
The thing I like most about gardening is how it can start with something so small and then fill with such potential. Even if you feel trapped indoors and disconnected from nature, you can still find a small seed of inspiration waiting to bloom.
It can start with a piece of paper. It can grow with a card game. There will be failures and hurdles to test you. You may feel like you are living in an alien environment. And then it can spark your curiosity all over again, encouraging you to give it one more try (and bring a friend). There is always something to make/play/watch/read in the garden.